How to let people help you with your wedding

Guest post by littleorangemonkeys
Ellen and her helpful bridesmaids. Photo by Ann Oleinik Photography.
Ellen and her helpful bridesmaids. Photo by Ann Oleinik Photography.

One of the first things I ever read on Offbeat Bride was an article about having open expectations. It really resonated with me, and I tried to keep that philosophy through the entire process. It also helped that I was planning a long-distance wedding, so I HAD to let people help me to stay sane… or to avoid massive amounts of credit card debt from flying from Salt Lake City to Wisconsin a gazillion times.

Did I have some minor freak-outs? Yes. But the wedding went off swimmingly, and it was better than I could have done myself thanks to the helping hands I had along the way. I don't know how I'll ever be able to thank them enough. But here are some tips I learned, and maybe even those of you who are extra detail-obsessed can step back and let someone help you!

Have a Vision

Yes, that's a capital V. You don't need all the details worked out, but you do need some idea of what you want. Pick out your colors, decide on daisies, put a bird on it… whatever it is, make sure you and your partner have some definite ideas. Yes, it's all about seeing what other people can come up with, but they need parameters. You probably don't want your secular ceremony followed by place cards with Bible verses.

Communicate that Vision

I didn't just have one “wedding” Pinterest board… I had about 20. Each for a different type of wedding decision. Not only did it keep me organized, but it helped me communicate my vision to those who wanted to help. When my aunt offered to make invitations, all I had to do was direct her to my invitation board, and she came up with the perfect creation, complete with pockets. When my mom's friend (who's a professional wedding planner) offered to help out on the day, all I had to do was post pictures of my desired decor on our blog, and he made us a kick-ass chandelier out of sticks and Christmas lights that fit perfectly with the theme. WIN!

I know not everyone is tech-inclined, but the same thing can be done with an old-school wedding binder filled with magazine pictures or print-outs from the interwebs. Repeat your wedding mantra over and over until even your pet parrot is saying “Halloween hand fasting.”

Decide on priorities

I had very specific dress ideas. So I was much more involved (read: picky) about my dress than anything else. I only DIYed those things that I wanted done a certain way, the rest was either not done, or done by someone else with liberal wiggle-room. Maybe you are in love with flowers and have a VERY specific idea about your bouquet, but you couldn't give two shits about ceremony decor. This would be the perfect time to let your sister-in-law go nuts… provided she stays within your budget.


Yes, you'll have to talk about money. In many cases, saying “we can't afford it” is enough to stop lots of helpful people from insisting on X, Y, or Z. No, we don't want real flowers because I don't want to pay for them. We're paying for kick-ass photography instead. This is why deciding on your priorities is so important… then you can tell people WHY you don't want to throw money at a fancy dress/gigantor cake/booze. It's being better spent elsewhere. The upside to this is that people for whom these thing ARE important may offer to pay for them, or gift them to you. We got some beautiful flower arrangements as a gift from my mom's friend, and they looked stellar on our sweetheart table!

Know when to Bridethulhu

Some helpful people are helpful. They really want to know what you want, and help you achieve that goal. Others want what THEY want, and think that you secretly covet those things too. If you know someone with these selfish tendencies, it might be best to say “thanks but no thanks,” or give them a job that has little-to-no effect on your vision. It's okay to say “no” to help, if you don't want it or need it, or if there will be strings attached.

Distraction and redirection

You have your accessories well in hand, but your best friend from elementary school is a jewelry designer and is DYING to make something for your wedding. Come up with an alternative job for those whose help isn't needed. Can she make something for a present for the mothers? A flower girl bracelet? Anything other than your bridal jewelry. Do you need it? Maybe not. But it will make her feel involved, and you'll get to wear the Steampunk necklace you've had your eye on for years!

When to LET GO

We didn't want a sweetheart table or a head table, we just wanted to eat with our friends. But the morning of the wedding, while I was in town getting my hair done, my mother called and said that the wedding-planner friend had set us up a sweetheart table. Actually, her exact words were “Tom made you a sweetheart table and you're going to like it.” Had this been any other time but four hours before the wedding, I would have pushed the issue. But I was at the point where my attitude was “fuck it.” Sure. Whatever. A sweetheart table, while annoying, was NOT enough of a thing to get into a fight with my mother on our wedding day. I'll barely remember where I ate dinner, but if I had gone off on her, THAT would have lasted in our memories for a long time. Granted, if it had been something more important to us, I might have calculated the risk. But think hard, kids, about what is really worth the fight!

Did my wedding go off exactly as I envisioned it? Nope. But it was awesome. And more importantly, I had help.

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Comments on How to let people help you with your wedding

  1. This is fantastic advice, and not just for planning a wedding. In fact, much of this (especially the budget section, saying no, and redirecting) will work brilliantly with my small children!! I often find myself saying, “I’m sorry, we won’t be buying that piece of candy for you. We’re saving our money for milk.” And redirection is king! “Oh, please don’t color on the table, sweetheart. Here is a piece of paper. I’d love to see your masterpiece when it’s finished.” I feel very empowered as a mother now! And if I were planning a wedding, your words of wisdom would give me a tremendous amount of comfort.

  2. Great post, thank you for sharing it! I’m throwing this one on the favorites list. I also agree that this advice is generally excellent for dealing with help and people in other aspects of life as well, like parenting. 🙂

  3. That last but one sentence is really really important. After a few big fights about stupid shit I forced myself to think “do I *actually* care about this or am I just being a control freak?” and decided that anything we didn’t *really* care about could get done however the hell someone who was prepared to do it, wanted to do it.

  4. You have such great perspective about the little things. I especially like where you mentioned the sweetheart table versus the lasting impact. Being realistic about your wedding details is so important. Family and friends are much more important.

  5. I would love to see a post about what to do when no one wants to help. We’re planning our wedding from abroad and would love to have people “on the ground” helping us with vendors, DIY and general logistics, but we’ve been surprised at how few people have offered to help. We’ve asked some who have unenthusiastically accepted, but we’re not quite sure how far we can push it. As much as I love the idea of (and had expected!) a community wedding and everyone pulling together, I’m feeling a lot more of “this is your wedding, YOU deal with it”.

  6. Thanks for this – it was very timely for me. I am LOVING planning my wedding, but this week got scolded for not involving family and friends enough. I was pissed (“but it’s MY wedding”), and then guilty (“I’m so ungrateful”) and then dismissive (“f*ck it, she can make the stupid centrepieces however she wants”). This post helped with the practicalities of it all! Knowing others experience this made me feel less guilty, too.

  7. I woould like to get marry me and my boyfriend in june or july and need some help, this is my number 07949118607

  8. This is great! I’m planning from S. Korea and my mom is starting to go nuts. I think I really need to get my Vision together. Thanks!

  9. I’m on a super tight budget as we’re having two receptions – one for friends, and a separate, more elaborate family-only affair across the pond with the invaluable hands-on help from my parents. I’m having a hard time thinking of how to communicate to my friends that I’ll need their help with everything at the reception (can you make some paper flowers? would you help out with set-up? clear up? can we borrow your speakers for some music? will you be my officiant?!!?). Do I write something in the invites? As they aren’t related, how much are they really going to want to get stuck in on the day? I’m having a spiraling combination of guilt/putting-off asking/shame. To offset the impending requests for help, we aren’t having a wedding registry and the only gifts we want are our friends’ time and love.

    Any advice???

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